My good friend George showed up one day:
“Hey Jay? What’s shakin today eh? Hey, I’m a poet.
“Yes you are George, yes you are”
“So Jay, before we even get started with all the craziness out there I would like to know one thing. How’d you get that handle, Shakey Jay anyway?”
“Well you see George, my hands shake. And my left hand really shakes. Much worse than the right. So most of my friends and not so friends call me Shakey. But I don’t mind. You see, whenever I had to perform in front of a crowd or give a presentation or a speech, the audience would equate my shakin hands to nervousness. Yet I am no more nervous than any one else. If one is anxious before public speaking, well so am I. If one’s hands sweat, well so do mine. If one has butterflies in their gut well so do I only mine are bigger. But, on top of all of that I have an additional affliction. No, affliction is not the right word here. A physical trait is more like it. It is something that is called a Benign Familial Tremor. I have had it all my life. Benign because it doesn’t grow as an affliction; Familial as it is hereditary, normally on the male side of a family, and Tremor for obvious reasons. It is now called an Essential Tremor although I really see nothing essential about it.”
“Sorry to interrupt Jay but again, who is one?”
“Let me share a very short but personal journey with you George.”
“I first noticed that something might be amiss with my hands when I was about 6 years old. On those summer days: hot, humid and sweaty, with a parched thirst, I would run to the fridge and to the consternation of all mothers out there, grab the chocolate milk carton with my sweaty, dirty palms, and bring my chapped, cracked, swollen dry lips to the spout and chug a lug to my hearts content. With my right hand there didn’t seem to be a problem. But when I grabbed it with my left hand, that carton would be a shakin all over. The contents of which were a shakin with me and a shakin all over me. But that was okay you see because for every swill with my left hand I had a chocolate milk shake.”
“It became apparent that the medical profession would not be in the cards for me. Indeed, dental surgery, neurosurgery was definitely out of the question. And you know what? I always wondered why on earth my parents never ever bought me a chemistry set as a kid.”
“As I got older I had to be very careful with the kind of work I did. Summer jobs were quite plentiful but some, like waiting tables, were not in the cards. But there was one city construction job that was right up my alley…workin the jackhammer. This job masked my physical trait…. and everything else for that matter – and our crew was something else indeed. Man oh man I cannot begin to tell you or show you how a crew of jackhammer artistes act while taking a break…off the job. But one thing I learned very quickly. Never, ever buy hot coffee during stand easy. And hot soup was definitely a no-no during lunch.”
“Nevertheless I moved on and was quite capable of living with my physical peculiarity. I joined the Navy at 23. During basic training there was one performance objective that really called for a steady hand… the small arms range. Needless to say I and my instructors were just a tad concerned. But you know what? With the rifle I had absolutely no difficulty at all. That’s because the NATO Standard FN rifle was heavy and I, being a left handed shot, had no difficulties with it. I actually attained marksman status at 1000 meters.”
“The sub machine gun was a blast as well. On single shot, I did have some difficulty and didn’t quite make the grade. But on staccato burst – man oh man – another story. The breech action on short burst was made for my affliction. And on fire for effect – full throttle, well those instructors had never seen anything like it. When my left handed finger action was engaged, nothing, and I mean nothing, was safe within a 25 yard radius I can tell you that. But there was one small arms weapon that was cause for concern: the 9mm pistol. Right handed, not too bad, both hands, I passed. But left handed? Not only did I hit my own target but I hit every other damn target down that firing line, without even trying. With my eyes closed for heaven sakes. It was a beautiful sight I can tell you seeing all of those other cadets on the firing line fall in turn or in unison and in panic to the ground for cover in perfect military fashion. Notwithstanding, even though I failed in the 9mm and was up for a career review because of it, I was able to convince the instructors that being on a ship the only gun I would ever fire would be a 5in 54 single shot howitzer that weighed in about 20 tons. I told the staff that I didn’t think I could lift it with my left hand. Needless to say common sense prevailed and I passed.”
“As the years went on the condition began to bug me as it would externalized my nervousness. So I went to see a neurologist.”
“Doc, what on earth can I do about this.”
“Well, he said, what seems to calm it down.”
“Well, says I, I do notice that when I have a few shooters the shakiness is less pronounced.”
“Well try that” he said.
“So, I did. It worked but not without its problems. You see, with a few shooters under the belt one gets a false sense of courage. I gave my presentation and asked for questions. One came. It was so stupid that I told the guy in no uncertain terms that his question was dumb and didn’t deserve an answer!”
Back to the doctor.
“Try these pills” he said, “but watch the dosage. Take 20 mg and see how that works out.”
“So, for the next presentation, a few minutes beforehand, I took the pill. It didn’t seem to work so I took another 2 just in case. Well, blah, blah blah, blah blah blah. Blah, blah blah. Whew.”
“Back to the doctor. He laughed, “you idiot. It takes about an hour for the pill to kick in. Try ½ dosage to start with.”
“Okay. I followed instructions and gave the presentation. Now, from your perspective it may have sounded all right. But from my perspective it sounded kind of like this……………..Myyyyy naaaameeee is Jaaaaayyyyyyy.
After a few tries I succeeded in finding the right dose and things seemed to be less pronounced.
As time went on I learned every trick there is to mask the shakiness. So, like most people I have all of the common side effects in prepping for a presentation but with this one exception. Yet for me it has never been an affliction, just a physical trait, that’s all. And besides, unlike you, when a good tune comes on the radio, I can be a shakin all over……… without even trying.
“And that’s all she wrote George”
“Shakey Jay huh? Somewhat appropriate. See ya later Jay, till next time. Oh by the way, who’s she?”
“Bye George, eee gads!”
Check out those glasses!
Have a great Navy day.